I’m my own man, says Madik­izela

The DA’s new West­ern Cape leader is fo­cus­ing on the party’s fu­ture and not on ‘lackey’ la­bels

Mail & Guardian - - News - Di­neo Bendile

Bonginkosi Madik­izela, the newly elected Demo­cratic Al­liance leader in the West­ern Cape, says he is his own man, so be­ing la­belled a lackey of West­ern Cape Premier Helen Zille doesn’t faze him.

In an in­ter­view with the Mail & Guardian this week, he lam­basted sup­port­ers of Len­nit Max, the for­mer West­ern Cape po­lice com­mis­sioner and DA mem­ber of the provin­cial leg­is­la­ture, for re­fus­ing to ac­cept the out­come of last week’s elec­tive con­fer­ence.

Madik­izela de­feated Max by a nar­row mar­gin of 16 votes. But Max’s sup­port­ers have claimed there were ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties dur­ing the elec­tions.

The new provin­cial leader said he was in­un­dated with con­grat­u­la­tory mes­sages from his sup­port­ers in and out­side the party.

“Two hours after [Satur­day’s an­nounce­ment] I looked at my phone and I had 130 mes­sages. Across the board peo­ple were con­grat­u­lat­ing me, com­ing from all po­lit­i­cal par­ties, ac­quain­tances and friends,” Madik­izela said.

But his per­ceived prox­im­ity to Zille earned him a fair amount of crit­i­cism, with some of his de­trac­tors ac­cus­ing him of be­ing used by a con­ser­va­tive group­ing in the party.

Madik­izela sounded ir­ri­ta­ble as he dis­missed claims that his rise to the top po­si­tion was a re­sult of his un­wa­ver­ing loy­alty to Zille.

“That’s the old­est trick in the book; that is now tired,” he said.

“I have a proven track record of what I did within the party and for com­mu­ni­ties, par­tic­u­larly poor com­mu­ni­ties, so that doesn’t bother me. In fact, I nor­mally don’t dig­nify it with a re­sponse be­cause it’s a non­is­sue, it’s pro­pa­ganda.”

Madik­izela’s crit­ics pointed to his de­fence of Zille when she landed in hot wa­ter for her con­tro­ver­sial tweets on colo­nial­ism.

He also faced crit­i­cism for lodg­ing a com­plaint against for­mer DA youth leader Mbali Ntuli for a com­ment on her Face­book page where an­other so­cial me­dia user called Zille racist.

Party in­sid­ers have claimed that Madik­izela was promised the po­si­tion of act­ing provin­cial leader in ex­change for him lodg­ing the com­plaint against Ntuli, an al­le­ga­tion he has de­nied.

He dis­missed the crit­i­cism against him as a ploy by the ANC to dis­credit black lead­ers ris­ing through the DA’s ranks.

“You must re­mem­ber the ANC has noth­ing left to of­fer be­sides race and also in­sult­ing and la­belling DA lead­ers who are grow­ing within the DA. But South Africans are see­ing through the ANC. I’m not wor­ried about that really. I’m my own per­son,” Madik­izela said.

The DA has been ac­cused of win­dow-dress­ing — us­ing black lead­ers while still har­bour­ing un­trans­formed ideas and poli­cies. Some se­nior black party mem­bers such as Makashule Gana, a Gaut­eng mem­ber of the provin­cial leg­is­la­ture, have been vo­cal about racism in the DA.

But Madik­izela was quick to de­fend the party, say­ing, although there were those who har­boured racist ideals, the phe­nom­e­non was not only preva­lent in the DA.

“Here’s the re­al­ity … we have a his­tory in South Africa and in every party you will find peo­ple who still have those racial ten­den­cies, not only in the DA, by the way. So we must not speak as if this thing is unique to the DA,” he said.

Madik­izela’s rise through the DA’s ranks fol­lows a colour­ful po­lit­i­cal ca­reer. A for­mer mem­ber of the ANC, he was ex­pelled from the party in 2006 be­cause of a plan he and other dis­grun­tled ANC mem­bers from Khayelit­sha had to con­test the 2006 mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions as in­de­pen­dent can­di­dates. He joined the United Demo­cratic Move­ment (UDM) a year later, serv­ing as the party’s Cape Town metro sec­re­tary. But his stay was short-lived after the party dis­cov­ered that he had re­cruited other UDM mem­bers to join the DA.

Fol­low­ing his elec­tion last week­end, Madik­izela said one of his key ar­eas of fo­cus would be the 2019 gen­eral elec­tions and the DA’s am­bi­tions of re­duc­ing the ANC’s sup­port to be­low 50% na­tion­ally. Un­der his lead­er­ship, the DA in the West­ern Cape would also fo­cus on grow­ing its sup­port base — par­tic­u­larly among black vot­ers, whom it was tar­get­ing ahead of 2019.

Madik­izela said, although the DA made some in­roads in black ar­eas dur­ing the 2016 lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions, there were still ANC strongholds in some of the West­ern Cape town­ships, in which vot­ers had demon­strated they still mis­trusted the DA, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for the party to cap­ture new votes.

“If you want peo­ple to trust you, you must have a strat­egy that fo­cuses on those ar­eas on a per­ma­nent ba­sis. Do door-to-door [vis­its], have oneon-one in­ter­ac­tions, de­liver their ser­vices on a con­tin­u­ous ba­sis. We mustn’t go there once and then dis­ap­pear,” he said.

Ear­lier this year the West­ern Cape gov­ern­ment, in which Madik­izela serves as hous­ing MEC, was ac­cused of be­ing anti-poor when it sold a piece of land ear­marked for low-cost hous­ing in Sea Point to a pri­vate in­vestor.

The party has also been ac­cused of ded­i­cat­ing fewer re­sources to poor black ar­eas in the West­ern Cape — ac­cu­sa­tions Madik­izela dis­missed as be­ing mere pro­pa­ganda and not backed by any facts.

Although Madik­izela has been tipped as a suit­able can­di­date to re­place Zille as West­ern Cape premier, he main­tained the premier­ship was not in his sights and that his only fo­cus was on mak­ing sure the DA re­tained con­trol of the West­ern Cape dur­ing the 2019 elec­tions.

He said his main con­cern was not to dis­ap­point DA vot­ers and the senders of those 130 con­grat­u­la­tory mes­sages.

“It puts a lot of pres­sure [on me ] be­cause, if you get such an over­whelm­ing pos­i­tive re­sponse, it means peo­ple have faith in you. And I pray to God not to dis­ap­point them.”

Dis­miss­ing crit­i­cism: Newly elected West­ern Cape DA leader Bonginkosi Madik­izela (in blue shirt) says he has a proven track record of what he has done for poor com­mu­ni­ties

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